Date: Thursday, April 21st, 2016, 08:43
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents
This could turn into something nifty.
An Apple patent application published Thursday suggests that the company is continuing work on a Lightning-equipped audio product some expect will replace wired EarPods if and when iPhone ships without a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The patent, entitled “Audio class-compliant charging accessories for wireless headphones and headsets” details a headphone device and supporting hardware capable of seamlessly switching between wired and wireless listening modes.
Apple’s idea seems to work around an electrical connector compatible with both digital and analog signals, requirements the proprietary Lightning protocol satisfies. An ideal connector would employ a plurality of contacts to transfer power and audio data — via differential signaling — from a host device to the headphone. This arrangement allows for a single cable to both charge and control the device, eliminating the potential for ground loops that compromise audio fidelity.
Apple’s proposed headphones would feature an internal battery, processor, memory, antenna and wireless transceiver package to communicate with a device.
The final product would handles its audio signal transmissions through both wired and wireless interfaces, sending packets of authentication data along for decision logic processing. This data could be analyzed by control circuitry to determine whether a wired or wireless connection is present and what to do from there.
When a successful match is found, audio data sent to the headphone device via wired or wireless communications module is collected in a hardware buffer, or onboard memory. The headphone is able to fall back on this buffered audio when a user switches from wired to wireless playback, or vice versa, an action that normally results in audio dropouts as the system re-establishes communications.
The design document hints at in-ear, on-ear and over-ear style headphones.
It’s unknown as to how Apple is looking to incorporate this and rumors of Apple’s removing the classic 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of a wireless or Lightning-based connection have been present since November. The company already fields both wireless and Lightning-enabled audio equipment through its Beats by Dre lineup, but has yet to utilize similar technology in an equivalent Apple-branded product.
Apple’s hybrid headphone switching patent application was first filed for in October 2014 and credits Zachary C. Rich, Baptiste P. Paquier, Joseph A. Sarlo and Jahan C. Minoo as its inventors.
Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.